Serena handed tough draw in quest for record 24th Grand Slam

Serena Williams lifts the Australian Open trophy in 2017. Now she is back looking for a record-equalling 24th Slam

Although Istomin is now ranked 99th in the world ratings, Federer will still be on guard after the 32-year-old player from Uzbekistan stunned six-time champion Djokovic in the 2nd round of the 2017 Australian Open. "I enjoy Grand Slams the most", she said before last week's Brisbane International.

On the women's side, all eyes will be on Serena Williams as she aims for Grand Slam number 24. "It's something that I clearly want but I have to be able to get there and beat a lot of good players to get it", the American said. After returning from the maternity leave, Williams made it to the final of the two Grand Slams but could not surpass the final hurdle. After vocally expressing her discontent with the officiating and calling chair umpire Carlos Ramos a "liar" and a "thief", Williams was assessed a game-losing code violation in the third set, eventually falling to Osaka and triggering the rage of the crowd.

Last year's semi-finalist Kyle Edmund looms as a possible fourth round match-up for the Spaniard, who could then face big-serving Kevin Anderson in the quarter-finals.

The grand slam champion was bedridden for six weeks due to the complications after her daughter was delivered by caesarean section.

"The fact that she dominated for so long and could break the record of grand slams, I think that will overshadow everything at the end of the day", former world No.1 Evert told a conference call.

"The first time I came back here and hit on the courts, I thought, 'Okay, I'm home.' I feel like these courts are suited for me, so it's incredible to be back".

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But she fell foul of officials with the spandex compression garment outfit criticised by the French Tennis Federation president and subsequently banned at Roland Garros.

The 28-year-old Dane insists she can manage the debilitating auto-immune condition, which sometimes leaves her so exhausted she cannot raise her arms above her head.

Combined with the pressure of becoming the first Japanese player to win a major, and the fanatical support that brings, there were fears she could wilt under the spotlight.

Halep cloud: World number one Simona Halep of Romania comes into the tournament under a fitness cloud after a nagging back injury curtailed her 2018 season.

"I'm surprised that I'm still at this level, that I'm still in the top 10".

A win in the upcoming tournament would make Australian Open Williams' most Successful Grand Slam event.

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